Frank Campagna, Jr., known affectionately around town as Frankie or Frankie 45, died early this morning. The revered guitarist, bartender and performer was 24 years old.
The cause of his death has not yet been released. The medical examiner's office has ruled his death a suicide.
A rambunctious personality quick with a joke and a mischievous smile, Campagna stood, perhaps, as Deep Ellum's most recognizable figure.
And, somewhat fittingly, his final performance came right in the middle of the neighborhood that so embraced him and that he so adored in return, as his greaser punk band, Spector 45, headlined The Bone's New Year's Eve celebration.
Though most recently employed as a bartender at Exposition Park's Amsterdam Bar, Campagna spent many years working behind the bar at Club Dada before ownership issues caused the club to close in 2009.
Those, however, were just his "day" jobs. For over a decade now, Campagna has performed as the frontman for Spector 45, which was headlining Deep Ellum haunts as Campagna and his bandmates were still going through puberty, and which was just recently starting to come into its own, having been voted as the Best Punk Act in the Dallas Observer Music Awards in 2009 and 2010.
Never one to mince words or speak his mind in real life, Campagna was finally starting to follow suit with his songwriting -- which, in recent years, had shown significant growth, both lyrically and musically. Live performance was never a problem -- Campagna's onstage displays were a sight to be seen, as the young performer would stalk and leap across the stage, and often into the crowd, completely covered in sweat, as if he were determined, if nothing else, to outwork every other musician in town once the amps were plugged in and the lights were turned on.
He just fully exuded a rock 'n' roll persona, be it in the fast way he lived, in the fast way he played, or in the tatted-up, greaser-punk look he so happily embraced. It never seemed to be a matter of "if" Campagna would break out as a nationally embraced star, but a matter of "when." He was a born rock star, and news of his passing comes as a devastating blow to Deep Ellum and the Dallas music community.
He'll be missed by many, including this writer, who considered Frankie a close friend.
After the jump, see the statement released by Campagna's father early this morning. There, I've also posted the music video for Spector 45's "Emulate," a clip all the more haunting a watch this morning, with this tragic news in mind.
Update at 3 p.m.: Frankie's father's Deep Ellum art gallery, Kettle Art, located at 2714 Elm St., will open at 7 o'clock tonight for those wishing to share condolences and pay their respects.
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Update: at 4:31 p.m.: On Thursday night, Club Dada will host a memorial concert for Frankie. We'll have more details on that event as it approaches.
Frank Anthony Campagna died unexpectedly on January 1st 2011. Born October 21st 1986. Frankie was a talented musician and graduate of Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual & Performing Arts. Best known as Frankie 45 and front man for the greaser punk band, Spector 45 he delighted audiences with his over the top antics on and off the stage. He worked as a bartender at Amsterdam in Exposition Park and was loved by everyone in the Deep Ellum area as the handsome, greasy, tattooed 24 year old rock n' roller. Survived by his father, Frank Campagna; sister, Amber Campagna; mother, Angela Early; stepmother, Cindy Campagna; grandmother, Winifred Martin Campagna; aunt, Wendy Fahle; and cousins Scott & Erin Fahle. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Deep Ellum Community Association.